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Report: States Can Improve College Readiness

States can improve college degree attainment by utilizing college readiness standards that link high school curricula to postsecondary education, according to a new report released by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). The report recommends steps states can take in adopting statewide college readiness standards and using high school exams for evaluating student progress to curb the need for remedial education in college.

The National Center and SREB, while highlighting research that shows many states have stepped up efforts to steer students toward taking college prep courses in high school, have emphasized that many college prep students enter institutions of higher learning unprepared to do college-level work.

“Students must have knowledge and skills in order to succeed in college,” said SREB president Dave Spence. “But it is just as important that students show that they have developed the reading, writing, math and knowledge skills.”

According to Dr. Spence and other officials, the literacy and math skills that students are lacking in after taking college prep courses are the ones that are imperative when entering college and help the students move to more advanced levels. By recognizing this problem immediately, states should require students to master higher level skills in vital courses, the report urges.

“Our purpose is positive. The good news is there has been a lot of good work. The challenging news is that there are a lot of things that need to be done,” Spence added.

Alan Richard, director of communications at the SREB, said “the whole idea of the report is to build a stronger bridge from high school to postsecondary schools.”

Joe Pickens, president of St. Johns River Community College and former chair of the Florida House appropriations committee, believes it is imperative to begin early in preparing students for college in order to raise the awareness level among parents and students who may be affected.

“In Putnam County, every eighth-grader came to an orientation on this college campus so that we could create an awareness to show what college readiness is,” Pickens said.

By hosting an orientation for future college students, this initiative has allowed parents to learn about getting their children prepared for college and has enabled middle school students to realize the importance of being prepared when entering their last four years in school, according to Pickens.

One recent Tennessee college graduate said being required to take remedial classes after entering college caught her by surprise because she believed her college prep curriculum in high school had fully prepared her for college. Nevertheless, the experience strengthened rather than weakened her resolve to complete college with a degree.

“Personally, when I was required to take remedial courses my freshman year, that only encouraged me to give it my all, and it drove me to become a graduate. It had already been proved to me that I was college material when I was accepted into the university, but it also showed me that I was not fully prepared,” said Tomeka Soremekun, a 2010 Tennessee State University graduate.

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